Randal Grichuk did not exactly make any waves last month when he said he wanted to hit 30 home runs this season. Although home runs and scoring have been down over the last half-decade, there are still the vestiges of the era previous where hitting 30 home runs was not a unique accomplishment. Hitting 30 home runs is indeed difficult in this day and age, but that does not mean that Randal Grichuk's goal is not realistic.
At the Winter Warmup, Grichuk shied away from a numerical goal a bit, but seemed to embrace the possibility.
"I try not to do a goal statistical-wise," Grichuk said. "But I think 30 is a realistic goal if we had to set something on there. I had 17 in a little over 300 at-bats last season. I feel pretty confident if I can get in a little groove I should be able to get to."
Last season, just 19 player in all of baseball hit 30 or more home runs. Only six players in the National League met that mark. Joey Votto did not hit 30 home runs. Kris Bryant did not either. Nor did Justin Upton, Prince Fielder, Jay Bruce, Ryan Braun, and Andrew McCutchen. Steamer only projects 14 players to get to 30 next season. Thirty homers might not seem like a big number, but it is. It is an especially big number when you play your home games in Busch Stadium and you hit right-handed like Grichuk does. The odds are against Grichuk, but that does not mean it is not possible.
In addition to the quality of pitching and home park, injuries and playing time can also be a deterring factor in a quest to achieve a numeric milestone. Grichuk also has the problem of striking out in more than 30% of plate appearances. If you get up to bat 600 times in a full season, but do not put the bat to ball 200 of those appearances, that leaves fewer chances for the ball to get out of the yard, although with the way he swings, that could be a calculated risk on his part.
Grichuk is correct about the home runs and plate appearances last season: he hit 17 home runs and got 350 plate appearances on the season. If he hits home runs at the exact same pace next season, he would need 618 plate appearances to reach his goal, which seems doable. Of course, then there is Matt Adams. In 2013, Adams hit 17 home runs in 319 plate appearances.
Much like Grichuk, he did not walk a lot, he struck out over 25% of the time, he hit for a pretty high .337 BABIP (Grichuk's last year was .365), and garnered a wRC+ of 135 (Grichuk's was 137). Adams has failed to recapture his success from 2013, hitting just 15 homers in 2014 despite nearly 600 plate appearances, and then hitting poorly in 2015 before losing the season to injury. Grichuk does not have to hit like Adams has, but there is certainly precedent for it.
The projections do not quite see 30 home runs in their future, but it is these projections that provide hope for Grihcuk's goal. Right now, Steamer predicts 20 home runs in 527 plate appearances. Tack on another 100 plate appearances, and Grichuk is at 24 homers. He would need a 25% increase over the projection to get to 30 in 627 plate apperances. ZiPS give Grichuk even more home runs per plate appearance, but gives fewer plate appearances, seeing 19 homers in 483 plate appearances. Tack on 150 PAs, and all of a sudden Grichuk is at 25 home runs, needing to hit just one extra home run per month to crack 30.
The projections serve as midpoint which makes Grichuk's goal seem realistic. Given Grichuk's unusual path to the majors, being aggressively moved up levels with little time to get acclimated, his future is still very cloudy. In his current iteration, he is not likely to get on base enough to be very valuable, but playing center field and hitting for big power with a low average likely makes him an average player.
There is still a lot of development possible at the plate, but he will likely have to adjust if he want to take his game to another level. An average Randal Grichuk might be somewhat frustrating given how hard he can hit the ball, but it is his most likely outcome for his Age-24 season upcoming. Thirty home runs is a realistic goal. The question will be how many swings it takes to get there.